home of a crazy herbalist

A Longer Introduction

"Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again...." ~Tori Amos

Thank you being here :) 

My name is kirsten hale (for the time being, a name change on the summer solstice may be coming!) This is rather lengthy and long winded, but intentionally so in case we work together in some capacity. I want you to have a sense of the way I show up to myself and my work, to honor the trust you would be placing in me by offering some vulnerability and openness upfront. Feel free to skim, lol. 

I'm a survivor. I am here, still breathing and showing up to this gift of being alive everyday, with some days feeling triumphant and others using ever skill I have learned to not get swept in undertow of former survival skills which no longer serve me. It would be entirely erroneous of me to attribute my survival to some super power unique to me, but perfectly acceptable according to dominant cultural narratives. I am still here because of the courage other survivors have summoned by making their experiences known: poets, activists, story tellers, teachers.... Culturally, I have been conditioned to see this survival as some miracle innate to me, but, it just isn't so. Nothing happens in isolation. 

I am wasi'chu, gringo, cracker, white...which has led me to speak when I should have listened, demand when I should have collaborated, take space when I should be sharing it. I am a settler/colonizer living on the unceded land of the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Chinook, Molalla, Tualatin Kalapuya and other indigenous peoples in a place called Portland, Oregon. I am learning to walk with the cedars. I am of Northern European descent, nearly all British Isles with a some of Greco-Roman and Caucasus/Turkish DNA. My roots in the United States are both recent and trace back to some of the ships that arrived in the 1630s. My traceable roots to the Isles go back into the 1300s and are a variety mix of Norman conquerors, Scottish, Cornish and Welsh resisters and uptight, holier-than-thou Puritans. As much as I have recently learned of my heritage, my biological family is a source of trauma and violence, of complication and shaming. In the last few years as I have crawled out of the grips of complex trauma and panic, I have become optimistic about what love, connection and safe intimacy lies ahead.

The plants taught me it was possible to seek such things. 

[Pic of my face looking up at a Hawthorn tree with a garden-like and sunny background] Hawthorn at the California School of Herbal Studies, 2015 

[Pic of my face looking up at a Hawthorn tree with a garden-like and sunny background] Hawthorn at the California School of Herbal Studies, 2015 

I am committed to the process of disarming the violent and oppressive systems which unjustly afford me greater access to safety, resources and socio-political power. Relationships between land, plants and each other are mediated by these systems and inform the way I question-approach-offer myself as a resource through my work. Not perfectly, for sure. But I am committed to showing up to the questions and wondering what our communities would look like not mediated by the white-cis-hetero-reductive-capitalist-patriarchy. These larger systems structure our intimacy with self and other; they create and maintain the perpetuation of trauma. Trauma sucks. 

I am queer, cis-gendered and non-binary (she/they): I honor the full spectrum of expression/identification and find myself sliding to and fro along it. I reject trans-exclusive feminism whole-heartedly. So many of us trauma survivors had/have rigid identities enforced on us and it takes a ton of unseen emotional labor to lift these constraints. I honor the liberation rejecting such narrow identities continues to bring me and wish my work to feed that liberation forward.

I identified as able-bodied and have a lot of work to do, I believe, on internalized ableism and under-expored ableism. It's a place I am working to deepen my knowledge and understanding, specifically how it relates to access, the imperatives to 'be healed,' and how the 'wellness industry' perpetuates lots of dominant cultural demands under the guise of help. These often are anti-thetical to what we need in our climb out of trauma and survival mode.

I grew up with various shifts between poverty/low-income and lower middle class. I have spent my adult life dancing between low-income/marginally housed and lower middle class with my financial stability shifting as my mental health and physical health changes. Right now I am in the longest stretch of stability and it has grown on me :) I am currently a recipient of Oregon State Health Care and believe everyone deserves access to effective, culturally competent and non-reductive health care...what we have going on now is such a fluorescent shit-show...We deserve better. 

Trauma has been a constant companion through my life. The diagnosis I have been given along the way are: *just a little note here that I have and honor complex feelings about 'diagnoses' and resist the pathology paradigm in my life and work*

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder
  • PTSD which finally was more accurately explanded to CPTSD (Complex Trauma)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome 
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue

I lovingly call myself crazy.

My early life was shaped by intense trauma, sexual violation, chaos and neglect. Big things happened and lots and lots of smaller, heart-hurting sad things did too. By the time I was supposed to emerge as a young adult into the world I was so panicked, self-hating and fearful that I began a nearly 15 year spiral into emotional and physical survival, self-sabotage (aka what complex trauma is good at) and at times, utter despair. I trusted no one, but I didn't know that I trusted no one...I just kept witnessing myself be incapable of making relationships and achieving certain levels of stability while I achingly watched my peers move up and onward. Like many folks with complex trauma, I have had very de-stabilizing and re-traumatizing experiences with mental health systems and medical care. I hold these experiences very close as I show up in my service to others. I carry them with me.

My body has hurt. It still does to varying degrees, but I have so much more richness to life and ability to be in the present. I had panic and depression and periods of extreme dissociation. It was so fucking lonely. And scary.

And, like so many trauma survivors, I thought all my struggles we character flaws.

[Pic of heart-shaped leaf in fall colors of reddish orange floating in water] 

[Pic of heart-shaped leaf in fall colors of reddish orange floating in water] 

I thought I was just an awful failure. I thought I was bad, and I cycled between periods of "I am going to fix me and then I'll be ok!" and "I shouldn't even be living, there is no fixing this." One of the most hard won triumphs in my initial work with trauma was unlearning my inherent badness and identify that as a toxic spell the trauma cast over my body-mind-spirit. The trauma still walks with me, every day, but my relationship to it has changed....continues to change. My work to learn neuro-emotional regulation and honor the needs of my body is ongoing, I am not here trying to do the "See! It all goes away if you do these things/take these supplements/right herbal formulation, etc." thing. I don't think much of the marketing to folks about 'healing' knows much about the actual process, and I guess that is why I approach my work differently, with more questions. I spent precious resources when I was marginally housed searching for the right thing to take, vitamin, counselor, doctor, diet, etc that would help me get rid of the despair in my heart and body. These things can be allies in the process, but trauma transforms with intimacy and connection and safety. 

The hyper-individualism inherent in some of the dominant cultural norms is incredibly isolating. Our very physiology thrives in connection, another thing the plants taught me. Connection can look like various things as our relationship to trauma evolves, and according to our own needs, but it is essential. The constant demands internally and culturally that we 'get it together' is a violence against the realities of being human. It is a narrowed range of minds and bodies. It is a cultural perpetuation of complex trauma. I reject it. We need each other. We deserve each other. Our way out of oppression is directly linked to our ability to have complex and intimate relationships with each other on multiple levels of being (and does NOT look like superficial calls for 'unity'). The thing we get good at as we root out the wounds of trauma are increased abilities to hold complexity, stand in the paradox and still find connection and restoration. <- The very things that slow down the imperial machine. 

I still taste the embers of the burning times as I navigate dominant culture. Much of my spiritual work is the asking of questions. The work of unspelling oppression and trauma in personal and political spheres are near identical.  As a colonizer with Northern European (and some other) heritage, I am called to study and practice the traditions of my ancestral resisters, those with ties to the land and magic in their blood, as well as the community systems which they fought to keep and lost. But not as an exact replica, not as oversimplification and spiritual bypass evading my responsibility as a current settler-colonizer unjustly privileged by an oppressive dominant culture and descendant of colonizers. I must turn forward and ask what these older systems of reverence and relating have to teach me about what needs to come into being now. There is no separation between social justice and spirituality to me. NONE. I am curious about what becomes possible in the eviction of these oppressive systems. It is my responsibility to help make that happen. So, while 'witch' is something I call myself at times, I am more curious about the words used to describe the women/healers of my ancestry who were a valued members of their communities: a wyrder: weaver of being, a lybbestre: woman who works with the life force, and especially a wyrtgaelstre: a woman who chants over herbs. These names feel good in my bones. I do work with prayer, trance, ritual, chanting & charming spells, unseen entities and living mythology. But I shy away from systematizing it and labeling it for the time being.

My work with trauma, plants, the body and spirit are what I have to show up to, lest I cease to exist. It is who I am, and I don't know if there is a modern English word/title that I can step into which feels like a non-appropriative home right now. I'll keep you posted if that changes ;)

Ultimately, I believe you are wonderful. Like, really wonderful.

I believe if you read this far that you have some powerful thing in you that knows, on a cellular level that what you sense is possible for you but fear may not be, very much is possible. I you to know that if you have struggled with your mental health, with your neuro-emotional health, your physical health, your ability to bring into being what you want or the level of safety you need that IT IS NOT A CHARACTER FLAW. It's not. It's a complex set of reactions to a culture hell bent on destroying the earth and those who are in deepest relationship with Her/it. 

So, out of my journey comes my work! Thank you for taking some time to get to know me, my context, my approach. May something you find here nourish your body-spirit, remind you how divine and worthy of love, safety, space and care you are and help unspell that which you may be wanting to release. 

xoxoxoxoxooxox! k

[Pic of a baby light green ivy leaf reaching into some sunlight]

[Pic of a baby light green ivy leaf reaching into some sunlight]